the proverbs of john heywood - 1546

when you learn Mandarin one of the most delightful aspects of the language is learning chengyu. Chengyu are idioms, typically of four characters, with rich (and convoluted) stories behind them. Today, Chinese often use them in day-to-day contexts as sort of common-sense teachings or even just throwaway expressions.

In English, it strikes me we don't have as strict a framework for our idioms. Recently, I came across Proverbs by John Heywood, published in 1546. I thought I'd share some of my favorites:

Soft fire makes sweet malt.

As he writes, "You must not leape over the stile before you come at it". Be patient.

Strike whilst the iron is hot

Perhaps contradictorily to the above, opportunities are not always ready for the taking. When they appear you have to seize them. Especially true in venture..

Out of sight, out of mind

In this day and age it's find to hard peace of mind. For me this represents the importance of being present in where you are, rather than being distracted by things happening far away from you. Information now travels at the speed of light but it doesn't mean we should always be paying attention to it. (Interestingly, origin is from a 1320 early English fragment that I interpret as Far from eyes, far from heart)

Mine Ease in Myne Inne

The comforts of home.

Better Late Than Never

apparently from Tusser's Five Hundred Points of Good Husbandry...

The rolling stone never gathers moss

One I've really taken to heart so far.
Loving the origin of this one:

Herod: Speake thou three-legd tripos, is thy shippe of fooles a flote yet?

Dondolo: I ha many things in my head to tell you.

Herod: I, thy head is alwaies working ; it roles, and it roles, Dondolo, but it gathers no mosse, Dondolo.

The Fawn, 1606, by John Marston

Will leave you with those

colin hanna

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London & Berlin

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